Woodruff: Trump’s wall poses serious ramifications for animals in area

Beth Woodruff

Since President Donald Trump signed an executive order to implement his promised border wall, many questions have come to light. But here’s my view: The promised wall clearly and undoubtedly is a financial black hole, an ethical disaster and a political rift.

Because many journalists have covered these three major downsides to the wall extensively, my argument won’t go in depth about why these are obvious conundrums. I will just mention that overgeneralizing and stigmatizing certain races, ethnicities and cultures is never an appropriate stance for anyone, especially a figure of such authority, and that the United States has no jurisdiction to impose financial costs on another country.   

This column will focus on an idea of the border wall that has been greatly overlooked: the environmental impacts. The Trump wall would cover sections of the border that George W. Bush’s Secure Fence Act did not. 

Jesse Lasky, assistant biology professor at Penn State, gave the Washington Post an insight into how the Secure Fence Act impacted wildlife. “At the border wall, people found large mammals confounded and not knowing what to do,” Lasky said. 

Now imagine a solid wall, not a sectional fence, that is 10 to 20 meters of pure concrete. Simply put, this will impact wildlife on an even greater scale. This massive wall also will result in an increase in human activity and heavy machinery, which will disorientate animals even further.

Animals’ migration patterns will also be brought to a screeching halt because of Trump’s wall. Studies found that in 2011, 16 species had already had up to 75 percent of their natural range blocked by man-made border barriers, according to the Washington Post. The wall Trump intends to build would only worsen this problem.

One of the many ramifications of a lack of mobility among animals is a limit on their mating abilities. A restricted gene pool could result in a loss of genetic diversity among the species. Limited genetics could result in the species becoming more susceptible to diseases, and thus result in a quicker decline in an already stressed population.

Animals’ mobility constraints combined with climate change could also pose a life-threatening problem to southern wildlife. With rising temperatures, many animals will need to travel to remain in a comfortable climate, and the wall could greatly hinder their ability to find a new suitable habitat. Without the freedom to move with their preferred climate, many animal populations could decline.

These consequences would have a broad reach in the number of species they affect. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 111 already endangered species and 108 migratory bird species will be affected by the construction and placement of the wall.

Among these species are the lynx, whose population has hit only 20 individuals and is in danger of local extinction, as well as the American jaguar and ocelot, with a southern Texas population of only 50. Iconic plants such as the saguaro cactus also will be affected in their ability to cross boarders.

In the past, large, man-made boarders have had massive negative impacts on animals, and the Trump wall appears to be no different. In Slovenia, a wall erected in an attempt to stop immigrants from Croatia has entrapped an array of mutilated animals that have been entangled in the razor wire trap.

A similar tragedy happened in Botswana, where a border wall entrapped giraffes, elephants, antelopes and many other creatures. While some may argue that the largest man-made wall, the Great Wall of China, has not affected wildlife in such a negative way, there is an explanation. The Great Wall of China is in fact many structures, not one singular wall, and parts of the wall are actually mounds of dirt and earth, which this allows for the passage of wildlife.  

Because Trump’s wall is intended to restrict any passage of humans, it will not accommodate the migration of wildlife. The building of this wall not only will induce panic for humans but also for animals.

The cons of the wall far outweigh the benefits. While the wall has inevitably been set in motion by executive order, the ramifications it will cause, for both humans and the environment, need to be taken into consideration before construction begins.